The conversations of life

Australia has a new Word of the Year!


Lovers of language will be delighted to hear that Australia’s own Macquarie Dictionary has announced that the 2015 Word of the Year is ‘captain’s call’ – at least in the opinion of the Committee.  Now you have your chance to cast your own vote in the People’s Choice category (see bottom for details).

But in case you have somehow missed the meteoric rise of this new term, a ‘captain’s call’ is defined as:

a decision made by a political or business leader without consultation with colleagues.”

Explaining (never ‘mansplaining‘) their choice, the Committee said, “Captain’s call perfectly encapsulates what happened in Australia over the past year. There has been an interesting change in usage; an infrequent item of the jargon of cricket makes the leap into politics and is now being used generally with an ironic tinge to it that is very Australian.”

Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas 2015
Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas 2015

Let’s call it as it is – we owe this one pretty squarely to former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, whose self-described ‘captain’s calls’ became legendary, and not usually in a good way. Think of his appointment of Bronwyn Bishop to the Speaker role (captain’s call); the reintroduction of Knights and Dames of the Order of Australia (captain’s call); the Knighting of Prince Philip (ditto); then there was the banning of Government frontbenchers from appearing on the Q&A program on ABC… among others.

And if a ‘captain’s call’ was a good enough explanation for the PM, it was good enough for any of us seeking to pull off an outrageous unilateral decision in our own favour! It was brilliant and we all jumped on it, tongue very much in cheek. (Frank especially)

Honourable mentions

In addition to deciding on an official, winning Word of the Year, the Committee has awarded a winner in each of the 15 categories (captain’s call coming from the ‘politics’ category) with two of the category winners being singled out for ‘honourable mentions’.  These are:

  • Lumbersexual – (winner in fashion category):  noun an urban male who wishes to associate himself by his appearance with a rugged outdoors way of life, as by wearing outdoor clothes such as check shirts, jeans and large boots combined with a beard as typical of a lumberjack.

It used to be all about women’s fashions, but the words are now being dominated more and more by those related to men’s fashion,” the Committee said. “Lumbersexual is an organic phenomenon that someone has identified and named. It is a neat coinage and perfectly describes this style that peaked in Australia over the past year.”

Lumbersexual - yes, it's a 'thing'
Lumbersexual – yes, it’s a ‘thing’
  • Deso – (winner in colloquial category):  noun Colloquial a designated driver. Also, ‘deso driver’.

The Committee said the idea of deso is very topical. “It combines a drinking culture with that of a law-abiding society. The word structure itself is typically Australian  a shortened form with an -o ending. It is astonishing how quickly and smoothly the deso became part of our lives.”

Other winning words

You might like to take a look at the winners in all the other categories too.  There are some real crackers.

For instance, winning the communications category is ‘listicle’ – that’s a noun for a type of article in online journalism and blogging which is presented in the form of a list. Think ’15 reasons you should never wear purple’ or ‘the five biggest fashion fails of the year’.

Another nominee we liked in the communications category was ‘snackable’ – an adjective used to describe media content organised in “small published units that can be delivered to and read, viewed or engaged with by the user at a fast pace.”  We certainly are aware of that phenomenon too.

Grolar bears are the offspring of a Grizzly bear and a Polar bear
Grolar bears are the offspring of a Grizzly bear and a Polar bear

Grolar bear’, winner of the general interest category, was a new one on us. It’s a noun referring to a hybrid species of bear – “the offspring of a grizzly bear and a polar bear; occurring naturally in greater numbers as a result of climate change.”

Fitspiration’, winner of the health category was quite identifiable on reflection:

“Noun, an exhortation, usually online, designed to push the reader or viewer to undertake more strenuous exercise in the pursuit of health and fitness, sometimes associated with the pursuit of an ideal body image.”

Many of us are no doubt bombarded by fitspirations daily, especially this early in a new year….

We love ‘slackpacking’ too, winner in the sport category.  It’s described as “an arrangement for a walking trip lasting longer than one day, in which heavy items such as food, wine, etc., are delivered to accommodation points, the walkers being required to carry only a daypack.”   Sounds like a very close relative of the now familiar, ‘glamping’ (meaning a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping – ie glamorous + camping).

Our highlights

Others that we liked that may also hit a chord with you – though not necessarily winning their categories – include:

fur baby’  – noun Colloquial for a pet animal, as a cat or dog, treated as one would a child. Also, fur child, furbaby;

grandcare‘ – a noun referring to the raising of a child by a grandparent or grandparents who are legally, biologically or culturally identified as such, and who are responsible for the child’s primary care – also, grandcarer

manspread‘ – verb , “to adopt a posture, characteristic of some men, of sitting with the legs wide apart, with the result that the person takes up more than his fair share of room on public transport, at a dinner table, etc”

keyboard warrior‘ – noun referring to a person who adopts an excessively aggressive style in online discussions which they would not normally adopt in person-to-person communication, often in support of a cause, theory, world view, etc. Know any?

Digital tattoo‘ – noun, referring to the information about an individual’s interests, purchasing patterns, etc which is traceable online. [DIGITAL + TATTOO , from the notion that the information is permanently recorded.]

Frankenfruit‘ – noun referring to a fruit produced as a hybrid of other fruits, or infused with the flavour of another fruit, or genetically modified in some way.

A commercial 'frankenfruit', the 'grapple'. "Looks like an apple; tastes like a grape," they say.
A commercial ‘frankenfruit’, the ‘grapple’. “Looks like an apple; tastes like a grape,” they say.

Swaggy‘ – Colloquial term describing someone who has a swaggering style; extremely confident in one’s manner. (Probably common among manspreaders…?)

Fleek‘ – including the phrase, ‘on fleek’. Colloquial for stylish; excellent

bae‘ – Colloquial noun referring to a girlfriend or boyfriend.  Also used as an affectionate form of address to one’s girlfriend or boyfriend. [may be shortened form of Babe; also has the ‘backronym’, b(efore) a(nyone) e(lse)]  We covered this one in a previous article on Millennial speak.

Cast your own vote and go in the draw to win

There are many, many more and you can read them all and cast your own vote HERE in The People’s Choice for the words you think are the most valuable contributions to Australian English in 2015.

But you’ll need to act quickly.  Voting is open now – from 21-31 January. The public vote determines the People’s Choice winner which will be announced on Tuesday, 2 February.

All voters will automatically be entered into a draw to win one of three book packs from Pan Macmillan Australia, including Only Time Will Tell from international bestselling author Jeffrey Archer along with books from Andy GriffithsJamie ZimmermannJuliet Marillier and Claire Varley.


Here is a link to the Committee’s choice of winners in each of the categories.

Here is a link to all the entrants in the different categories for 2015.  You be the judge.  What are your favourites?

[You can read our post about last year’s word of the year winners here too.  Remember ‘mansplain’?]

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